Being a personal assistant or executive assistant is a rewarding and challenging career offering individuals the opportunity to work with some of the most successful and inspiring people out there, but like any other job, it comes with a unique set of challenges.
At The Help Company, candidates constantly ask, “ How can I be the best personal assistant?” In order to answer this question, we tapped in to the knowledge and experience of the wonderful assistants we have had the honor of placing with some of the most demanding clients out there. Here are some of their tips – direct from the field:
START EARLY & MAKE TO-DO LISTS
Each day as a personal assistant can be drastically different from the last. Knowing how to get things done amidst the crisis management, lunch pick-ups, and a million phone calls is an art in and of itself. Starting the day earlier than your boss gives you invaluable calm before the storm time. Create a to-do list and set goals before your day officially starts. This tip doesn’t only apply to the day to day; one of our assistants told us she starts her boss’s holiday shopping in June. Always think ahead!
KNOW YOUR TALENTS, DELEGATE THE REST
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Take pride in the things you know you are good at, and then, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others to strengthen your weak areas. A sign of a good assistant is knowing how to pull the right people in at the right time to get the job done. When you look at it that way, it’s a success – not a failure.
NEVER SAY “I DON’T KNOW”
If you don’t know an answer or how to find something, remember that it’s your job to figure it out. Reassure your boss that you understand this and are committed to delivering on the request with a response like: “I’ll confirm now and get right back to you” or “I’ll find out.”
THINK AS THEY WOULD THINK (AND THEN ONE STEP BEYOND THAT)
Do your best to anticipate what your boss might want, need or expect. Everything from keeping an extra pen in your pocket, to holding a seat on the flight after his should he have a tendency of running late. Watch what your boss does in his daily routine, note his likes and dislikes, and anticipate how you can make every step of his routine easier and more efficient.
SYNC YOUR CALENDARS & TRACK TRAVEL DETAILS
It’s important to keep the details of schedules and travel as organized and updated as possible. Apps like Flightaware and Tripit are useful in keeping track of itineraries, delays, and changes to travel. Keeping this information in one place will ensure pick up and drop off are a breeze.
CONSOLIDATE, STREAMLINE & PRIORITIZE
If you don’t have a chance to have a daily check-in with your boss, an end-of-day recap email is a great way to organize the events of the day in one place. Consolidating messages and important details helps to ensure that you aren’t over communicating. Remember, let your work speak for itself. No one needs to know you went to 5 Apple stores to get the new iphone. Let your work do the talking.
It’s important to remember your actions are a reflection of your boss. Email etiquette is a delicate tool that you should hone carefully. Our assistants tell us that it’s crucial to respond to all emails within 24 hours. Even if the response is an acknowledgement of receipt, with an estimate of when you can properly respond. Then, add it to your to-do list!
OWN YOUR MISTAKES
As with any relationship, honesty and communication are tantamount to maintaining trust. If you make a mistake you can’t solve on your own, go to your boss for help. Your boss wants to know she is in the loop, and that you are her eyes and ears on the ground. Present the problem, plus three possible solutions! This initiative shows that you are thinking ahead and enabling your boss to make A faster decision.
GIVE BACK TO THOSE WHO HELP YOU
A simple thank you note goes a long way to show the people that help you get your job done how much you appreciate their help. Whether it’s squeezing you into a great table on a Friday night or finding you an upgrade at the hotel after a long day of travel. Every kind act makes a positive impact on your day – and your boss’ day – and deserves acknowledgement.
KEEP YOUR CONTACTS UPDATED
Keeping contacts updated is an ongoing battle. Confirm and update contact information prior to sending a thank you note or birthday gift. Use your down time to go through your contact lists and check emails, addresses, and telephone numbers. If you receive an address change email or note, enter it immediately so that you don’t forget.